I know this is late coming, but this is the fourth installment I've posted from my Novel, The Exception. I'm hoping to reveal a little more each week. Oh, and I cheated this time. It's actually closer to 700 words. Sorry, I tried. I had to cut a lot, add some things, and move things around so it would make a little more sense.
That aside, constructive criticism is welcome!
Here are the other excerpts, in chronological order (this one fits somewhere between "The Guardian" and "The House"):
“I picked up your mail,” Paul called from Elanor’s kitchen. “It’s on the table.”
She sighed. Paul might have been an Adonis by every definition, and every woman might label her lucky to call him her fiancé, but there was still something missing, something not right. He was still fuming from the argument that had transpired on the bed, of that she knew. But it was her birthday, so tonight he acted like he’d moved past it.
She sat on the couch, where he’d demanded she stay, and heard cupboards opening and closing from the kitchen. She hated surprises. Especially birthday surprises. She stood and walked to the dining room table, blowing out a scented candle on the way, and started thumbing through the stack of mail.
Most of it was junk, but she froze, just as she did every time she saw the envelopes. Another letter from Hugh, her former name still scrawled in his handwriting…haunting her. Sighing, her face heating, she crumpled it. Before she could toss it in the waste basket, Paul appeared and took it from her hands.
“Whoa, what’s this?”
“Paul, don’t,” she begged, trying to take it from him.
They stared each other down a moment, his eyes narrowing. “What are you hiding from me?”
“I’m not hiding anything. It’s just a letter from an old foster parent.”
He straightened the envelope, reading the addresses. “A foster parent with your last name?”
“Graham is not my last name.”
He rolled his eyes. “A foster parent with your old last name? Who’s Hugh, Elanor? What aren’t you telling me?”
Just when she was about to reply with another false excuse, she saw behind his shoulder, into the kitchen. It was a birthday cake, elaborate and detailed, and just small enough for the two of them. Her eyes immediately burned. “What’s that?” she unevenly asked, pointing to it.
He twisted, then sighed. “What does it look like?”
“I thought I told you before: no cakes. You knew that.”
He ran his hand through his hair. “It’s a cake, El. It’s not a big deal.”
“It is to me!”
He studied her a moment, her eyes glistening. “It’s one thing to change the subject, but I’ve worked hard to make this night special for you. Where’s the appreciation?” He threw the crumpled envelope on the table. “I don’t know what’s with you. I’ve tried to get past your weird quirks, El, but I just don’t know…”
Inhaling unevenly, she withdrew. “What are you saying, Paul? Am I too nuts for you? Is it too crazy that I don’t like birthdays, or even birthday cakes?”
“Oh, let’s not forget all the other hang-ups. The house I wanted to buy was vintage, Elanor, and a steal. And I had to pass it up because it had hardwood floors?”
“I’m sorry if those things remind me.”
“Remind you of what?” He sighed, calming himself. “All you have to do is open up to me, El. We could work through whatever shit’s in your past.”
“We can’t work through anything. I just want to move on, I want to forget certain things. Is that too much to ask?”
His eyes turned somber. “How can you marry someone you can’t even share yourself with?”
She tightened her jaw, her eyes rewetting. “You know me, Paul,” she lied.
Glancing at the letter, his upper lip curled over his bleached teeth. “No. I don’t.” He walked toward the door, grabbing his jacket.
And he was gone.
Later, Elanor’s eyes found the blasted letter on the dining room table, suitably crinkled. She picked it up, the course wrinkles satisfying against her fingertips, and noticed something different than usual. On the front, in Hugh’s sloppy handwriting, it read, “Please don’t throw me away.”
With heating skin she huffed, revisiting her determination from nineteen years before, when she’d vowed to never play the fool again.
When she’d disowned Hugh as her father.
Hoping he could feel it, with both her fists she balled it into the tightest wad she could crumple—putting all her hatred into it—and threw it into the trash, her eyes burning from ancient betrayal.
She would never read his words, never know what lies filled his many letters.